Volume 2 - Balzac considered it the most important French novel of his time. André Gide later deemed it the greatest of all French novels, and Henry James judged it to be a masterpiece. Now, in a major literary event, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and distinguished translator Richard Howard presents a new rendition of Stendhal's epic tale of romance, adventure, and court intrigue set in early nineteenth-century Italy.
CHAPTER FOURTEENCHAPTER FIFTEENCHAPTER SIXTEENCHAPTER SEVENTEENCHAPTER EIGHTEENCHAPTER NINETEENCHAPTER TWENTYCHAPTER TWENTY-ONECHAPTER TWENTY-TWOCHAPTER TWENTY-THREECHAPTER TWENTY-FOURCHAPTER TWENTY-FIVECHAPTER TWENTY-SIXCHAPTER TWENTY-SEVENCHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHTAPPENDIXFRAGMENT I—BIRAGUE'S NARRATIVEFRAGMENT II—CONTE ZORAFI, THE PRINCE'S "PRESS"
While Fabrizio was in pursuit of love, in a village near Parma, the Fiscal General Rassi, who did not know that he was so near, continued to treat his case as though he had been a Liberal: he pretended to be unable to find—or, rather, he intimidated—the witnesses for the defence; and finally, after the most ingenious operations, carried on for nearly a year, and about two months after Fabrizio's final return to Bologna, on a certain Friday, the Marchesa Raversi, mad with joy, announced publicly in her drawing-room that next day the sentence which had just been pronounced, in the last hour, on young del Dongo would be presented to the Prince for his signature and approved by him. A few minutes later the Duchessa was informed of this utterance by her enemy.
"The Conte must be extremely ill served by his agents!" she said to herself; "only this morning he thought that the sentence could not be passed for another week. Perhaps he would not be sorry to see my young Grand Vicar kept out of Parma; but," she added, breaking into song, "we shall see him come again; and one day he will be our Archbishop." The Duchessa rang:
"Collect all the servants in the waiting-room," she told her footman, "including the kitchen staff; go to the town commandant and get the necessary permit to procure four post horses, and have those horses harnessed to my landau within half an hour." All the women of the household were set to work packing trunks: the Duchessa hastily chose a travelling dress, all without sending any word to the Conte; the idea of playing a little joke on him sent her into a transport of joy.
"My friends," she said to the assembled servants, "I learn that my poor nephew is to be condemned in his absence for having had the audacity to defend his life against a raging madman; I mean Giletti, who was trying to kill him. You have all of you had opportunities of seeing how mild and inoffensive Fabrizio's nature is. Rightly indignant at this atrocious outrage, I am going to Florence; I leave for each of you ten years' wages; if you are in distress, write to me, and, so long as I have a sequin, there will be something for you."
The Duchessa meant exactly what she said, and, at her closing words, the servants dissolved in tears; her eyes too were moist: she added in a voice faint with emotion: "Pray to God for me and for Monsignor Fabrizio del Dongo, First Grand Vicar of the Diocese, who to-morrow morning is going to be condemned to the galleys, or, which would be less stupid, to the penalty of death."
The tears of the servants flowed in double volume, and gradually changed into cries that were almost seditious; the Duchessa stepped into her carriage and drove to the Prince's Palace. Despite the unusual hour, she sent in a request for an audience by General Fontana, the Aide-de-Camp in waiting; she was by no means in court dress, a fact which threw this Aide-de-Camp into a profound stupor. As for the Prince, he was not at all surprised, still less annoyed by this request for an audience. "We shall see tears flowing from fine eyes," he said to himself, rubbing his hands. "She comes to sue for pardon; at last that proud beauty is going to humble herself! She was, really, too insupportable with her little airs of independence! Those speaking eyes seemed always to be saying to me, when the slightest thing offended her: 'Naples or Milan would have very different attractions as a residence from your little town of Parma.' In truth, I do not reign over Naples, nor over Milan; but now at last this great lady is coming to ask me for something which depends upon me alone, and which she is burning to obtain; I always thought that nephew's coming here would bring me some advantage."
While the Prince was smiling at these thoughts, and giving himself up to all these agreeable anticipations, he walked up and down his cabinet, at the door of which General Fontana remained standing stiff and erect like a soldier presenting arms. Seeing the sparkling eyes of the Prince, and remembering the Duchessa's travelling dress, he imagined a dissolution of the Monarchy. His bewilderment knew no bounds when he heard the Prince say: "Ask the Signora Duchessa to wait for a quarter of an hour." The General Aide-de-Camp made his half-turn, like a soldier on parade; the Prince was still smiling: "Fontana is not accustomed," he said to himself, "to see that proud Duchessa kept waiting. The face of astonishment with which he is going to tell her about the quarter of an hour to wait will pave the way for the touching tears which this cabinet is going to see her shed." This quarter of an hour was exquisite for the Prince; he walked up and down with a firm and steady pace; he reigned. "It will not do at this point to say anything that is not perfectly correct; whatever my feelings for the Duchessa may be, I must never forget that she is one of the greatest ladies of my court. How used Louis XIV to speak to the Princesses his daughters, when he had occasion to be displeased with them?" And his eyes came to rest on the portrait of the Great King.
The amusing thing was that the Prince never thought of asking himself whether he should shew clemency to Fabrizio, or what form that clemency should take. Finally, at the end of twenty minutes, the faithful Fontana presented himself again at the door, but without saying a word. "The Duchessa Sanseverina may enter," cried the Prince, with a theatrical air. "Now for the tears," he added inwardly, and, as though to prepare himself for such a spectacle, took out his handkerchief.
Never had the Duchessa been so gay or so pretty; she did not seem five-and-twenty. Seeing her light and rapid little step scarcely brush the carpet, the poor Aide-de-Camp was on the point of losing his reason altogether.
"I have a thousand pardons to ask of Your Serene Highness," said the Duchessa in her light and gay little voice; "I have taken the liberty of presenting myself before him in a costume which is not exactly conventional, but Your Highness has so accustomed me to his kindnesses that I have ventured to hope that he will be pleased to accord me this pardon also."
The Duchessa spoke quite slowly so as to give herself time to enjoy the spectacle of the Prince's face; it was delicious, by reason of the profound astonishment and of the traces of the grand manner which the position of his head and arms still betrayed. The Prince sat as though struck by a thunderbolt; in a shrill and troubled little voice he exclaimed from time to time, barely articulating the words: "What's that! What's that!" The Duchessa, as though out of respect, having ended her compliment, left him ample time to reply; then went on:
"I venture to hope that Your Serene Highness deigns to pardon me the incongruity of my costume"; but, as she said the words, her mocking eyes shone with so bright a sparkle that the Prince could not endure it; he studied the ceiling, an act which with him was the final sign of the most extreme embarrassment.
"What's that! What's that!" he said again; then he had the good fortune to hit upon a phrase:—"Signora Duchessa, pray be seated"; he himself drew forward a chair for her, not ungraciously. The Duchessa was by no means insensible to this courtesy, she moderated the petulance of her gaze.
"What's that! What's that!" the Prince once more repeated, moving uneasily in his chair, in which one would have said that he could find no solid support.
"I am going to take advantage of the cool night air to travel by post," went on the Duchessa, "and as my absence may be of some duration, I have not wished to leave the States of His Serene Highness without thanking him for all the kindnesses which, in the last five years, he has deigned to shew me." At these words the Prince at last understood; he grew pale; he was the one man in the world who really suffered when he saw himself proved wrong in his calculations. Then he assumed an air of grandeur quite worthy of the portrait of Louis XIV which hung before his eyes. "Very good," thought the Duchessa, "there is a man."
"And what is the reason for this sudden departure?" said the Prince in a fairly firm tone.
"I have long had the plan in my mind," replied the Duchessa, "and a little insult which has been offered to Monsignor Del Dongo, whom to-morrow they are going to sentence to death or to the galleys, makes me hasten my departure."
"And to what town are you going?"
"To Naples, I think." She added as she rose to her feet: "It only remains for me to take leave of Your Serene Highness and to thank him most humbly for his former kindnesses." She, in turn, spoke with so firm an air that the Prince saw that in two minutes all would be over; once the sensation of her departure had occurred, he knew that no further arrangement was possible; she was not a woman to retrace her steps. He ran after her.
"But you know well, Signora Duchessa," he said, taking her hand, "that I have always felt a regard for you, a regard to which it rested only with you to give another name. A murder has been committed; that is a fact which no one can deny; I have entrusted the sifting of the evidence to my best judges. . . ."
At these words the Duchessa rose to her full height; every sign of respect and even of urbanity disappeared in the twinkling of an eye; the outraged woman became clearly apparent, and the outraged woman addressing a creature whom she knew to have broken faith with her. It was with an expression of the most violent anger, and indeed of contempt that she said to the Prince, dwelling on every word:
"I am leaving the States of Your Serene Highness for ever, so as never to hear the names of the Fiscal Rassi and of the other infamous assassins who have condemned my nephew and so many others to death; if Your Serene Highness does not wish to introduce a feeling of bitterness into the last moments that I shall pass in the presence of a Prince who is courteous and intelligent when he is not led astray, I beg him most humbly not to recall to me the thought of those infamous judges who sell themselves for a thousand scudi or a Cross."
The admirable—and, above all, genuine—accent in which these words were uttered made the Prince shudder; he feared for a moment to see his dignity compromised by an accusation even more direct, but on the whole his sensation soon became one of pleasure; he admired the Duchessa; her face and figure attained at that moment to a sublime beauty. "Great God! How beautiful she is!" the Prince said to himself; "one ought to make some concessions to a woman who is so unique, when there probably is not another like her in the whole of Italy. Oh well, with a little policy it might not be impossible one day to make her my mistress: there is a wide gulf between a creature like this and that doll of a Marchesa Balbi, who moreover robs my poor subjects of at least three hundred thousand francs every year. . . . But did I hear aright?" he thought suddenly; "she said: 'Condemned my nephew and so many others.'" Then his anger boiled over, and it was with a stiffness worthy of his supreme rank that the Prince said, after an interval of silence: "And what would one have to do to make the Signora not leave us?"
"Something of which you are not capable," replied the Duchessa in an accent of the most bitter irony and the most unconcealed contempt.
The Prince was beside himself, but his professional training as an Absolute Sovereign gave him the strength to overcome his first impulse. "I must have this woman," he said to himself; "so much I owe to myself, then she must be made to die of shame. . . . If she leaves this cabinet, I shall never see her again." But, mad with rage and hatred as he was at this moment, where was he to find an answer that would at once satisfy the requirements of what he owed to himself and induce the Duchessa not to abandon his court immediately? "She cannot," he said to himself, "repeat or turn to ridicule a gesture," and he placed himself between the Duchessa and the door of his cabinet. Presently he heard a tap at this door.
"Who is the creature," he cried, shouting with the full force of his lungs, "who is the creature who comes here to thrust his fatuous presence upon me?" Poor General Fontana shewed a pallid face of complete discomfiture, and it was with the air of a man in his last agony that he stammered these inarticulate words: "His Excellency the Conte Mosca solicits the honour of being introduced."
"Let him come in," said, or rather shouted the Prince, and, as Mosca bowed:
"Well," he said to him, "here is the Signora Duchessa Sanseverina, who informs me that she is leaving Parma immediately to go and settle at Naples, and who, incidentally, is being most impertinent to me."
"What!" said Mosca turning pale.
"Oh! So you did not know of this plan of departure?"
"Not a word; I left the Signora at six o'clock, happy and content."
This statement had an incredible effect on the Prince. First of all he looked at Mosca; his increasing pallor shewed the Prince that he was telling the truth and was in no way an accomplice of the Duchessa's desperate action. "In that case," he said to himself, "I lose her for ever; pleasure and vengeance, all goes in a flash. At Naples she will make epigrams with her nephew Fabrizio about the great fury of the little Prince of Parma." He looked at the Duchessa: the most violent scorn and anger were disputing the possession of her heart; her eyes were fixed at that moment on Conte Mosca, and the exquisite curves of that lovely mouth expressed the bitterest disdain. The whole face seemed to be saying: "Vile courtier!" "So," thought the Prince after he had examined her, "I lose this means of bringing her back to my country. At this moment again, if she leaves this cabinet, she is lost to me; God knows the things she will say about my judges at Naples. . . . And with that spirit, and that divine power of persuasion which heaven has bestowed on her, she will make everyone believe her. I shall be obliged to her for the reputation of a ridiculous tyrant, who gets up in the middle of the night to look under his bed. . . ." Then, by an adroit move and as though he were intending to walk up and down the room to reduce his agitation, the Prince took his stand once again in front of the door of the cabinet; the Conte was on his right, at a distance of three paces, pale, shattered, and trembling so that he was obliged to seek support from the back of the armchair in which the Duchessa had been sitting during the earlier part of the audience, and which the Prince in a moment of anger had pushed across the floor. The Conte was in love. "If the Duchessa goes, I follow her," he said to himself; "but will she want me in her train? That is the question."
On the Prince's left, the Duchessa, erect, her arms folded and pressed to her bosom, was looking at him with an admirable impatience: a complete and intense pallor had taken the place of the vivid colours which a moment earlier animated that sublime face.
The Prince, in contrast to the other two occupants of the room, had a red face and a troubled air; his left hand played convulsively with the Cross attached to the Grand Cordon of his Order which he wore under his coat: with his right hand he caressed his chin.
"What is to be done?" he asked the Conte, without knowing quite what he himself was doing, and carried away by the habit of consulting this other in everything.
"I can think of nothing, truly, Serene Highness," replied the Conte with the air of a man yielding up his last breath. It was all he could do to pronounce the words of his answer. The tone of his voice gave the Prince the first consolation that his wounded pride had received during this audience, and this grain of happiness furnished him with a speech that gratified his vanity.
"Very well," he said, "I am the most reasonable of the three; I choose to make a complete elimination of my position in the world. I am going to speak as a friend"; and he added, with a fine smile of condescension, beautifully copied from the brave days of Louis XIV, "like a friend speaking to friends. Signora Duchessa," he went on, "what is to be done to make you forget an untimely resolution?"
"Truly, I can think of nothing," replied the Duchessa with a deep sigh, "truly, I can think of nothing, I have such a horror of Parma." There was no epigrammatic intention in this speech; one could see that sincerity itself spoke through her lips.
The Conte turned sharply towards her; his courtier's soul was scandalised; then he addressed a suppliant gaze to the Prince. With great dignity and coolness the Prince allowed a moment to pass; then, addressing the Conte:
"I see," he said, "that your charming friend is altogether beside herself; it is quite simple, she adores her nephew." And, turning towards the Duchessa, he went on with a glance of the utmost gallantry and at the same time with the air which one adopts when quoting a line from a play: "What must one do to please those lovely eyes?"
The Duchessa had had time for reflexion; in a firm and measured tone, and as though she were dictating her ultimatum, she replied:
"His Highness might write me a gracious letter, as he knows so well how to do; he might say to me that, not being at all convinced of the guilt of Fabrizio del Dongo, First Grand Vicar of the Archbishop, he will not sign the sentence when it is laid before him, and that these unjust proceedings shall have no consequences in the future."
"What, unjust!" cried the Prince, colouring to the whites of his eyes, and recovering his anger.
"That is not all," replied the Duchessa, with a Roman pride, "this very evening, and," she added, looking at the clock, "it is already a quarter past eleven,—this very evening His Serene Highness will send word to the Marchesa Raversi that he advises her to retire to the country to recover from the fatigue which must have been caused her by a certain prosecution of which she was speaking in her drawing-room in the early hours of the evening." The Prince was pacing the floor of his cabinet like a madman.
"Did anyone ever see such a woman?" he cried. "She is wanting in respect for me!"
The Duchessa replied with inimitable grace:
"Never in my life have I had a thought of shewing want of respect for His Serene Highness; His Highness has had the extreme condescension to say that he was speaking as a friend to friends. I have, moreover, no desire to remain at Parma," she added, looking at the Conte with the utmost contempt. This look decided the Prince, hitherto highly uncertain, though his words had seemed to promise a pledge; he paid little attention to words.
There was still some further discussion; but at length Conte Mosca received the order to write the gracious note solicited by the Duchessa. He omitted the phrase: these unjust proceedings shall have no consequences in the future. "It is enough," the Conte said to himself, "that the Prince shall promise not to sign the sentence which will be laid before him." The Prince thanked him with a quick glance as he signed.
The Conte was greatly mistaken; the Prince was tired and would have signed anything. He thought that he was getting well out of the difficulty, and the whole affair was coloured in his eyes by the thought: "If the Duchessa goes, I shall find my court become boring within a week." The Conte noticed that his master altered the date to that of the following day. He looked at the clock: it pointed almost to midnight. The Minister saw nothing more in this correction of the date than a pedantic desire to show a proof of exactitude and good government. As for the banishment of the Marchesa Raversi, he made no objection; the Prince took a particular delight in banishing people.
"General Fontana!" he cried, opening the door a little way.
The General appeared with a face shewing so much astonishment and curiosity, that a merry glance was exchanged by the Duchessa and Conte, and this glance made peace between them.
"General Fontana," said the Prince, "you will get into my carriage, which is waiting under the colonnade; you will go to the Marchesa Raversi's, you will send in your name; if she is in bed, you will add that you come from me, and, on entering her room, you will say these precise words and no others: 'Signora Marchesa Raversi, His Serene Highness requests you to leave to-morrow morning, before eight o'clock, for your castello at Velleja; His Highness will let you know when you may return to Parma.'"
The Prince's eyes sought those of the Duchessa, who, without giving him the thanks he expected, made him an extremely respectful curtsey, and swiftly left the room.
"What a woman!" said the Prince, turning to Conte Mosca.
The latter, delighted at the banishment of the Marchesa Raversi, which simplified all his ministerial activities, talked for a full half-hour like a consummate courtier; he sought to console his Sovereign's injured vanity, and did not take his leave until he saw him fully convinced that the historical anecdotes of Louis XIV included no fairer page than that with which he had just provided his own future historians.
On reaching home the Duchessa shut her doors, and gave orders that no one was to be admitted, not even the Conte. She wished to be left alone with herself, and to consider for a little what idea she ought to form of the scene that had just occurred. She had acted at random and for her own immediate pleasure; but to whatever course she might have let herself be induced to take she would have clung with tenacity. She had not blamed herself in the least on recovering her coolness, still less had she repented; such was the character to which she owed the position of being still, in her thirty-seventh year, the best looking woman at court.
She was thinking at this moment of what Parma might have to offer in the way of attractions, as she might have done on returning after a long journey, so fully, between nine o'clock and eleven, had she believed that she was leaving the place for ever.
"That poor Conte did cut a ludicrous figure when he learned of my departure in the Prince's presence. . . . After all, he is a pleasant man, and has a very rare warmth of heart. He would have given up his Ministries to follow me. . . . But on the other hand, during five whole years, he has not had to find fault with me for a single aberration. How many women married before the altar could say as much to their lords and masters? It must be admitted that he is not self-important, he is no pedant; he gives one no desire to be unfaithful to him; when he is with me, he seems always to be ashamed of his power. . . . He cut a funny figure in the presence of his lord and master; if he was in the room now, I should kiss him. . . . But not for anything in the world would I undertake to amuse a Minister who had lost his portfolio; that is a malady which only death can cure, and . . . one which kills. What a misfortune it would be to become Minister when one was young! I must write to him; it is one of the things that he ought to know officially before he quarrels with his Prince. . . . But I am forgetting my good servants."
The Duchessa rang. Her women were still at work packing trunks, the carriage had drawn up under the portico, and was being loaded; all the servants who had nothing else to do were gathered round this carriage, with tears in their eyes. Cecchina, who on great occasions, had the sole right to enter the Duchessa's room, told her all these details.
"Call them upstairs," said the Duchessa.
A moment later she passed into the waiting-room.
"I have been promised," she told them, "that the sentence passed on my nephew will not be signed by the Sovereign" (such is the term used in Italy), "and I am postponing my departure. We shall see whether my enemies have enough influence to alter this decision."
After a brief silence, the servants began to shout: "Evviva la Signora Duchessa!" and to applaud furiously. The Duchessa, who had gone into the next room, reappeared like an actress taking a call, made a little curtsey, full of grace, to her people, and said to them: "My friends, I thank you." Had she said the word, all of them at that moment would have marched on the Palace to attack it. She beckoned to a postilion, an old smuggler and a devoted servant, who followed her.
"You will disguise yourself as a contadino in easy circumstances, you will get out of Parma as best you can, hire a sediola and proceed as quickly as possible to Bologna. You will enter Bologna as a casual visitor and by the Florence gate, and you will deliver to Fabrizio, who is at the Pellegrino, a packet which Cecchina will give you. Fabrizio is in hiding, and is known there as Signor Giuseppe Bossi; do not give him away by any stupid action, do not appear to know him; my enemies will perhaps set spies on your track. Fabrizio will send you back here after a few hours or a few days: and it is on your return journey especially that you must use every precaution not to give him away."
"Ah! Marchesa Raversi's people!" cried the postilion. "We are on the look-out for them, and if the Signora wished, they would soon be exterminated."
"Some other day, perhaps; but don't, as you value your life, do anything without orders from me."
It was a copy of the Prince's note which the Duchessa wished to send to Fabrizio; she could not resist the pleasure of making him amused, and added a word about the scene which had led up to the note; this word became a letter of ten pages. She had the postilion called back.
"You cannot start," she told him, "before four o'clock, when the gates are opened."
"I was thinking of going out by the big conduit; I should be up to my neck in water, but I should get through. . . ."
"No," said the Duchessa, "I do not wish to expose one of my most faithful servants to the risk of fever. Do you know anyone in the Archbishop's household?"
"The second coachman is a friend of mine."
"Here is a letter for that saintly prelate; make your way quietly into his Palace, get them to take you to his valet; I do not wish Monsignore to be awakened. If he has retired to his room, spend the night in the Palace, and, as he is in the habit of rising at dawn, to-morrow morning, at four o'clock, have yourself announced as coming from me, ask the holy Archbishop for his blessing, hand him the packet you see here, and take the letters that he will perhaps give you for Bologna."
The Duchessa addressed to the Archbishop the actual original of the Prince's note; as this note concerned his First Grand Vicar, she begged him to deposit it among the archives of the Palace, where she hoped that their Reverences the Grand Vicars and Canons, her nephew's colleagues, would be so good as to acquaint themselves with its contents; the whole transaction to be kept in the most profound secrecy.
The Duchessa wrote to Monsignor Landriani with a familiarity which could not fail to charm that honest plebeian; the signature alone filled three lines; the letter, couched in the most friendly tone, was followed by the words: Angelina-Cornelia-Isotta Valserra del Dongo, duchessa Sanseverina.
"I don't believe I have signed all that," the Duchessa said to herself, "since my marriage contract with the poor Duca; but one only gets hold of those people with that sort of thing, and in the eyes of the middle classes the caricature looks like beauty." She could not bring the evening to an end without yielding to the temptation to write to the poor Conte; she announced to him officially, for his guidance, she said, in his relations with crowned heads, that she did not feel herself to be capable of amusing a Minister in disgrace. "The Prince frightens you; when you are no longer in a position to see him, will it be my business to frighten you?" She had this letter taken to him at once.
For his part, that morning at seven o'clock, the Prince sent for Conte Zurla, the Minister of the Interior.
"Repeat," he told him, "the strictest orders to every podestà to have Signor Fabrizio del Dongo arrested. We are informed that possibly he may dare to reappear in our States. This fugitive being now at Bologna, where he seems to defy the judgment of our tribunals, post the sbirri who know him by sight: (1) in the villages on the road from Bologna to Parma; (2) in the neighbourhood of Duchessa Sanseverina's castello at Sacca, and of her house at Castelnuovo; (3) round Conte Mosca's castello. I venture to hope from your great sagacity, Signor Conte, that you will manage to keep all knowledge of these, your Sovereign's orders, from the curiosity of Conte Mosca. Understand that I wish Signor Fabrizio del Dongo to be arrested."
As soon as the Minister had left him, a secret door introduced into the Prince's presence the Fiscal General Rassi, who came towards him bent double, and bowing at every step. The face of this rascal was a picture; it did full justice to the infamy of the part he had to play, and, while the rapid and extravagant movements of his eyes betrayed his consciousness of his own merits, the arrogant and grimacing assurance of his mouth showed that he knew how to fight against contempt.
As this personage is going to acquire a considerable influence over Fabrizio's destiny, we may say a word here about him. He was tall, he had fine eyes that shewed great intelligence, but a face ruined by smallpox; as for brains, he had them in plenty, and of the finest quality; it was admitted that he had an exhaustive knowledge of the law, but it was in the quality of resource that he specially shone. Whatever the aspect in which a case might be laid before him, he easily and in a few moments discovered the way, thoroughly well founded in law, to arrive at a conviction or an acquittal; he was above all a past-master of the hair-splittings of a prosecutor.
In this man, whom great Monarchs might have envied the Prince of Parma, one passion only was known to exist: he loved to converse with eminent personages and to please them by buffooneries. It mattered little to him whether the powerful personage laughed at what he said or at his person, or uttered revolting pleasantries at the expense of Signora Rassi; provided that he saw the great man laugh and was himself treated as a familiar, he was content. Sometimes the Prince, at a loss how further to insult the dignity of this Chief Justice, would actually kick him; if the kicks hurt him, he would begin to cry. But the instinct of buffoonery was so strong in him that he might be seen every day frequenting the drawing-room of a Minister who scoffed at him, in preference to his own drawing-room where he exercised a despotic rule over all the stuff gowns of the place. This Rassi had above all created for himself a place apart, in that it was impossible for the most insolent noble to humiliate him; his method of avenging himself for the insults which he had to endure all day long was to relate them to the Prince, in whose presence he had acquired the privilege of saying anything; it is true that the reply often took the form of a well-directed cuff, which hurt him, but he stood on no ceremony about that. The presence of this Chief Justice used to distract the Prince in his moments of ill humour; then he amused himself by outraging him. It can be seen that Rassi was almost the perfect courtier: a man without honour and without humour.
"Secrecy is essential above all things," the Prince shouted to him without greeting him, treating him, in fact, exactly as he would have treated a scullion, he who was so polite to everybody. "From when is your sentence dated?"
"Serene Highness, from yesterday morning."
"By how many judges is it signed?"
"By all five."
"And the penalty?"
"Twenty years in a fortress, as Your Serene Highness told me."
"The death penalty would have given offence," said the Prince, as though speaking to himself; "it is a pity! What an effect on that woman! But he is a del Dongo, and that name is revered in Parma, on account of the three Archbishops, almost in direct sequence. . . . You say twenty years in a fortress?"
"Yes, Serene Highness," replied the Fiscal, still on his feet and bent double; "with, as a preliminary, a public apology before His Serene Highness's portrait; and, in addition, a diet of bread and water every Friday and on the Vigils of the principal Feasts, the accused being notorious for his impiety. This is with an eye to the future and to put a stop to his career."
"Write," said the Prince: "'His Serene Highness having deigned to turn a considerate ear to the most humble supplications of the Marchesa del Dongo, the culprit's mother, and of the Duchessa Sanseverina, his aunt, which ladies have represented to him that at the date of the crime their son and nephew was extremely young, and in addition led astray by an insensate passion conceived for the wife of the unfortunate Giletti, has been graciously pleased, notwithstanding the horror inspired by such a murder, to commute the penalty to which Fabrizio del Dongo has been sentenced to that of twelve years in a fortress."
"Give it to me to sign."
The Prince signed and dated the sentence from the previous day; then, handing it back to Rassi, said to him: "Write immediately beneath my signature: 'The Duchessa Sanseverina having once again thrown herself before the knees of His Highness, the Prince has given permission that every Thursday the prisoner may take exercise for one hour on the platform of the square tower, commonly called Torre Farnese.'"
"Sign that," said the Prince, "and, don't forget, keep your mouth shut, whatever you may hear said in the town. You will tell Councillor De' Capitani, who voted for two years in a fortress, and even made a speech upholding so ridiculous a sentence, that I expect him to refresh his memory of the laws and regulations. Once again silence, and good night." Fiscal Rassi performed with great deliberation three profound reverences to which the Prince paid no attention.
This happened at seven o'clock in the morning. A few hours later, the news of the Marchesa Raversi's banishment spread through the town and among the caffè: everyone was talking at once of this great event. The Marchesa's banishment drove away for some time from Parma that implacable enemy of small towns and small courts, boredom. General Fabio Conti, who had regarded himself as a Minister already, feigned an attack of gout, and for several days did not emerge from his fortress. The middle classes, and consequently the populace, concluded from what was happening that it was clear that the Prince had decided to confer the Archbishopric of Parma on Monsignor del Dongo. The shrewd politicians of the caffè went so far as to assert that Father Landriani, the reigning Archbishop, had been ordered to plead ill health and to send in his resignation; he was to be awarded a fat pension from the tobacco duty, they were positive about it; this report reached the Archbishop himself, who was greatly alarmed, and for several days his zeal for our hero was considerably paralysed. Two months later, this fine piece of news found its way into the Paris newspapers, with the slight alteration that it was Conte Mosca, nephew of the Duchessa Sanseverina, who was to be made Archbishop.
The Marchesa Raversi meanwhile was raging in her Castello di Velleja; she was by no means one of those little feather-pated women who think that they are avenging themselves when they say damaging things about their enemies. On the day following her disgrace, Cavaliere Riscara and three more of her friends presented themselves before the Prince by her order, and asked him for permission to go to visit her at her castello. His Highness received these gentlemen with perfect grace, and their arrival at Velleja was a great consolation to the Marchesa. Before the end of the second week, she had thirty people in her castello, all those whom the Liberal Ministry was going to bring into power. Every evening, the Marchesa held a regular council with the better informed of her friends. One day, on which she had received a number of letters from Parma and Bologna, she retired to bed early: her maid let into the room, first of all the reigning lover, Conte Baldi, a young man of admirable appearance and complete insignificance, and, later on, Cavaliere Riscara, his predecessor: this was a small man dark in complexion and in character, who, having begun by being instructor in geometry at the College of Nobles at Parma, now found himself a Councillor of State and a Knight of several Orders.
"I have the good habit," the Marchesa said to these two men, "of never destroying any paper; and well it has served me; here are nine letters which the Sanseverina has written me on different occasions. You will both of you proceed to Genoa, you will look among the gaol-birds there for an ex-lawyer named Burati, like the great Venetian poet, or else Durati. You, Conte Baldi, sit down at my desk and write what I am going to dictate to you."
"'An idea has occurred to me, and I write you a line. I am going to my cottage, by Castelnuovo; if you care to come over and spend a day with me, I shall be most delighted; there is, it seems to me, no great danger after what has just happened; the clouds are lifting. However, stop before you come to Castelnuovo; you will find one of my people on the road; they are all madly devoted to you. You will, of course, keep the name Bossi for this little expedition. They tell me that you have grown a beard like the most perfect Capuchin, and nobody has seen you at Parma except with the decent countenance of a Grand Vicar.'"
"Do you follow me, Riscara?"
"Perfectly; but the journey to Genoa is an unnecessary extravagance; I know a man in Parma who, to be accurate, is not yet in the galleys, but cannot fail to get there in the end. He will counterfeit the Sanseverina's hand to perfection."
At these words, Conte Baldi opened those fine eyes of his to their full extent; he had only just understood.
"If you know this worthy personage of Parma, who, you hope, will obtain advancement," said the Marchesa to Riscara, "presumably he knows you also: his mistress, his confessor, his bosom friend may have been bought by the Sanseverina: I should prefer to postpone this little joke for a few days and not to expose myself to any risk. Start in a couple of hours like good little lambs, don't see a living soul at Genoa, and return quickly." Cavaliere Riscara fled from the room laughing, and squeaking through his nose like Punchinello. "We must pack up our traps!" he said as he ran in a burlesque fashion. He wished to leave Baldi alone with the lady. Five days later, Riscara brought the Marchesa back her Conte Baldi, flayed alive; to cut off six leagues, they had made him cross a mountain on mule-back; he vowed that nothing would ever induce him again to take long journeys. Baldi handed the Marchesa three copies of the letter which she had dictated to him, and five or six other letters in the same hand, composed by Riscara, which might perhaps be put to some use later on. One of these letters contained some very pretty witticisms with regard to the fears from which the Prince suffered at night, and to the deplorable thinness of the Marchesa Balbi, his mistress, who left a dint in the sofa-cushions, it was said, like the mark made by a pair of tongs, after she had sat on them for a moment. Anyone would have sworn that all these letters came from the hand of Signora Sanseverina.
"Now I know, beyond any doubt," said the Marchesa, "that the favoured lover, Fabrizio, is at Bologna or in the immediate neighbourhood. . . ."
"I am too unwell," cried Conte Baldi, interrupting her; "I ask as a favour to be excused this second journey, or at least I should like to have a few days' rest to recover my health."
"I shall go and plead your cause," said Riscara.
He rose and spoke in an undertone to the Marchesa.
"Oh, very well, then, I consent," she replied with a smile. "Reassure yourself, you shall not go at all," she told Baldi, with a certain air of contempt.
"Thank you," he cried in heart-felt accents. In the end, Riscara got into a post-chaise by himself. He had scarcely been a couple of days in Bologna when he saw, in an open carriage, Fabrizio and little Marietta. "The devil!" he said to himself, "it seems, our future Archbishop doesn't let the time hang on his hands; we must let the Duchessa know about this, she will be charmed." Riscara had only to follow Fabrizio to discover his address; next morning our hero received from a courier the letter forged at Genoa; he thought it a trifle short, but apart from that suspected nothing. The thought of seeing the Duchessa and Conte again made him wild with joy, and in spite of anything Lodovico might say he took a post-horse and went off at a gallop. Without knowing it, he was followed at a short distance by Cavaliere Riscara, who on coming to a point six leagues from Parma, at the stage before Castelnuovo, had the satisfaction of seeing a crowd on the piazza outside the local prison; they had just led in our hero, recognised at the post-house, as he was changing horses, by two sbirri who had been selected and sent there by Conte Zurla.
Cavaliere Riscara's little eyes sparkled with joy; he informed himself, with exemplary patience, of everything that had occurred in this little village, then sent a courier to the Marchesa Raversi. After which, roaming the streets as though to visit the church, which was of great interest, and then to look for a picture by the Parmigianino which, he had been told, was to be found in the place, he finally ran into the podestà, who was obsequious in paying his respects to a Councillor of State. Riscara appeared surprised that he had not immediately dispatched to the citadel of Parma the conspirator whose arrest he had had the good fortune to secure.
"There is reason to fear," Riscara added in an indifferent tone, "that his many friends, who were endeavouring, the day before yesterday, to facilitate his passage through the States of His Highness, may come into conflict with the police; there were at least twelve or fifteen of these rebels, mounted."
"Intelligenti pauca!" cried the podestà with a cunning air.
A couple of hours later, the unfortunate Fabrizio, fitted with handcuffs and actually attached by a long chain to the sediola into which he had been made to climb, started for the citadel of Parma, escorted by eight constables. These had orders to take with them all the constables stationed in the villages through which the procession had to pass; the podestà in person followed this important prisoner. About seven o'clock in the evening the sediola, escorted by all the little boys in Parma and by thirty constables, came down the fine avenue of trees, passed in front of the little palazzo in which Fausta had been living a few months earlier, and finally presented itself at the outer gate of the citadel just as General Fabio Conti and his daughter were coming out. The governor's carriage stopped before reaching the drawbridge to make way for the sediola to which Fabrizio was attached; the General instantly shouted for the gates to be shut, and hastened down to the turnkey's office to see what was the matter; he was not a little surprised when he recognised the prisoner, who had grown quite stiff after being fastened to his sediola throughout such a long journey; four constables had lifted him down and were carrying him into the turnkey's office. "So I have in my power," thought the feather-pated governor, "that famous Fabrizio del Dongo, with whom anyone would say that for the last year the high society of Parma had taken a vow to occupy themselves exclusively!"
The General had met him a score of times at court, at the Duchessa's and elsewhere; but he took good care not to shew any sign that he knew him; he was afraid of compromising himself.
"Have a report made out," he called to the prison clerk, "in full detail of the surrender made to me of the prisoner by his worship the podestà of Castelnuovo."
Barbone, the clerk, a terrifying personage owing to the volume of his beard and his martial bearing, assumed an air of even greater importance than usual; one would have called him a German gaoler. Thinking he knew that it was chiefly the Duchessa Sanseverina who had prevented his master from becoming Minister of War, he was behaving with more than his ordinary insolence towards the prisoner; in speaking to him he used the pronoun voi, which in Italy is the formula used in addressing servants.
"I am a prelate of the Holy Roman Church," Fabrizio said to him firmly, "and Grand Vicar of this Diocese; my birth alone entitles me to respect."
"I know nothing about that!" replied the clerk pertly; "prove your assertions by shewing the brevets which give you a right to those highly respectable titles."
Fabrizio had no such documents and did not answer. General Fabio Conti, standing by the side of his clerk, watched him write without raising his eyes to the prisoner, so as not to be obliged to admit that he was really Fabrizio del Dongo.
Suddenly Clelia Conti, who was waiting in the carriage, heard a tremendous racket in the guard-room. The clerk Barbone, in making an insolent and extremely long description of the prisoner's person, ordered him to undo his clothing in order to verify and put on record the number and condition of the scars received by him in his fight with Giletti.
"I cannot," said Fabrizio, smiling bitterly; "I am not in a position to obey the gentleman's orders, these handcuffs make it impossible."
"What!" cried the General with an innocent air, "the prisoner is handcuffed! Inside the fortress! That is against the rules, it requires an order ad hoc; take the handcuffs off him."
Fabrizio looked at him: "There's a nice Jesuit," he thought; "for the last hour he has seen me with these handcuffs, which have been hurting me horribly, and he pretends to be surprised!"
The handcuffs were taken off by the constables; they had just learned that Fabrizio was the nephew of the Duchessa Sanseverina, and made haste to shew him a honeyed politeness which formed a sharp contrast to the rudeness of the clerk; the latter seemed annoyed by this and said to Fabrizio, who stood there without moving:
"Come along, there! Hurry up, shew us those scratches you got from poor Giletti, the time he was murdered." With a bound, Fabrizio sprang upon the clerk, and dealt him such a blow that Barbone fell from his chair against the General's legs. The constables seized hold of the arms of Fabrizio, who made no attempt to resist them; the General himself and two constables who were standing by him hastened to pick up the clerk, whose face was bleeding copiously. Two subordinates who stood farther off ran to shut the door of the office, in the idea that the prisoner was trying to escape. The brigadiere who was in command of them thought that young del Dongo could not make a serious attempt at flight, since after all he was in the interior of the citadel; at the same time, he went to the window to put a stop to any disorder, and by a professional instinct. Opposite this open window and within a few feet of it the General's carriage was drawn up: Clelia had shrunk back inside it, so as not to be a witness of the painful scene that was being enacted in the office; when she heard all this noise, she looked out.
"What is happening?" she asked the brigadiere.
"Signorina, it is young Fabrizio del Dongo who has just given that insolent Barbone a proper smack!"
"What! It is Signor del Dongo that they are taking to prison?"
"Eh! No doubt about that," said the brigadiere; "it is because of the poor young man's high birth that they are making all this fuss; I thought the Signorina knew all about it." Clelia remained at the window: when the constables who were standing round the table moved away a little she caught a glimpse of the prisoner. "Who would ever have said," she thought, "that I should see him again for the first time in this sad plight, when I met him on the road from the Lake of Como? . . . He gave me his hand to help me into his mother's carriage. . . . He had the Duchessa with him even then! Had they begun to love each other as long ago as that?"
It should be explained to the reader that the members of the Liberal Party swayed by the Marchesa Raversi and General Conti affected to entertain no doubt as to the tender intimacy that must exist between Fabrizio and the Duchessa. Conte Mosca, whom they abhorred, was the object of endless pleasantries for the way in which he was being deceived.
"So," thought Clelia, "there he is a prisoner, and a prisoner in the hands of his enemies. For after all, Conte Mosca, angel as one would like to think him, will be delighted when he hears of this capture."
A loud burst of laughter sounded from the guard-room.
"Jacopo," she said to the brigadiere in a voice that quivered with emotion, "what in the world is happening?"
"The General asked the prisoner sharply why he had struck Barbone: Monsignor Fabrizio answered calmly: 'He called me assassino; let him produce the titles and brevets which authorise him to give me that title'; and they all laughed."
A gaoler who could write took Barbone's place; Clelia saw the latter emerge mopping with his handkerchief the blood that streamed in abundance from his hideous face; he was swearing like a heathen: "That f—— Fabrizio," he shouted at the top of his voice, "I'll have his life, I will, if I have to steal the hangman's rope." He had stopped between the office window and the General's carriage, and his oaths redoubled.
"Move along there," the brigadiere told him; "you mustn't swear in front of the Signorina."
Barbone raised his head to look at the carriage, his eyes met those of Clelia who could not repress a cry of horror; never had she seen at such close range so atrocious an expression upon any human face. "He will kill Fabrizio!" she said to herself, "I shall have to warn Don Cesare." This was her uncle, one of the most respected priests in the town; General Conti, his brother, had procured for him the post of economo and principal chaplain in the prison.
The General got into the carriage.
"Would you rather stay at home," he said to his daughter, "or wait for me, perhaps for some time, in the courtyard of the Palace? I must go and report all this to the Sovereign."
Fabrizio came out of the office escorted by three constables; they were taking him to the room which had been allotted to him. Clelia looked out of the window, the prisoner was quite close to her. At that moment she answered her father's question in the words: "I will go with you." Fabrizio, hearing these words uttered close to his ear, raised his eyes and met the girl's gaze. He was struck, especially, by the expression of melancholy on her face. "How she has improved," he thought, "since our meeting near Como! What an air of profound thought! . . . They are quite right to compare her with the Duchessa; what angelic features!" Barbone, the bloodstained clerk, who had not taken his stand beside the carriage without a purpose, held up his hand to stop the three constables who were leading Fabrizio away, and, moving round behind the carriage until he reached the window next which the General was sitting:
"As the prisoner has committed an act of violence in the interior of the citadel," he said to him, "in consideration of Article 157 of the regulations, would it not be as well to put the handcuffs on him for three days?"
"Go to the devil!" cried the General, still considerably embarrassed by this arrest. It was important for him that he should not drive either the Duchessa or Conte Mosca to extremes; and besides, what attitude was the Conte going to adopt towards this affair? After all, the murder of a Giletti was a mere trifle, and only intrigue had succeeded in magnifying it into anything of importance.
During this brief dialogue, Fabrizio stood superb among the group of constables, his expression was certainly the proudest and most noble that one could imagine; his fine and delicate features, and the contemptuous smile that strayed over his lips made a charming contrast with the coarse appearance of the constables who stood round him. But all this formed, so to speak, only the external part of his physiognomy; he was enraptured by the heavenly beauty of Clelia, and his eyes betrayed his surprise to the full. She, profoundly pensive, had never thought of drawing back her head from the window; he bowed to her with a half-smile of the utmost respect; then, after a moment's silence:
"It seems to me, Signorina," he said to her, "that, once before, near a lake, I had the honour of meeting you, in the company of the police."
Clelia blushed, and was so taken aback that she could find no words in which to reply. "What a noble air among all those coarse creatures," she had been saying to herself at the moment when Fabrizio spoke to her. The profound pity, we might almost say the tender emotion in which she was plunged deprived her of the presence of mind necessary to find words, no matter what; she became conscious of her silence and blushed all the deeper. At this moment the bolts of the great gate of the citadel were drawn back with a clang; had not His Excellency's carriage been waiting for at least a minute? The echo was so loud in this vaulted passage that even if Clelia had found something to say in reply Fabrizio could not have caught her words.
Borne away by the horses which had broken into a gallop immediately after crossing the drawbridge, Clelia said to herself: "He must have thought me very silly!" Then suddenly she added: "Not only silly; he must have felt that I had a base nature, he must have thought that I did not respond to his greeting because he is a prisoner and I am the governor's daughter."
The thought of such a thing was terrible to this girl of naturally lofty soul. "What makes my behaviour absolutely degrading," she went on, "is that before, when we met for the first time, also in the company of the police, as he said just now, it was I who was the prisoner, and he did me a service, and helped me out of a very awkward position. . . . Yes, I am bound to admit, my behaviour was quite complete, it combined rudeness and ingratitude. Alas, poor young man! Now that he is in trouble, everybody is going to behave disgracefully to him. Even if he did say to me then: 'You will remember my name, I hope, at Parma?' how he must be despising me at this moment! It would have been so easy to say a civil word! Yes, I must admit, my conduct towards him has been atrocious. The other time, but for the generous offer of his mother's carriage, I should have had to follow the constables on foot through the dust, or, what would have been far worse, ride pillion behind one of them; it was my father then who was under arrest, and I defenceless! Yes, my behaviour is complete. And how keenly a nature like his must have felt it! What a contrast between his noble features and my behaviour! What nobility! What serenity! How like a hero he looked, surrounded by his vile enemies! Now I understand the Duchessa's passion: if he looks like that in distressing circumstances which may end in frightful disaster, what must he be like when his heart is happy!"
The governor's carriage waited for more than an hour and a half in the courtyard of the Palace, and yet, when the General returned from his interview with the Prince, Clelia by no means felt that he had stayed there too long.
"What is His Highness's will?" asked Clelia.
"His tongue said: Prison! His eyes: Death!"
"Death! Great God!" exclaimed Clelia.
"There now, be quiet!" said the General crossly; "what a fool I am to answer a child's questions."
Meanwhile Fabrizio was climbing the three hundred and eighty steps which led to the Torre Farnese, a new prison built on the platform of the great tower, at a prodigious height from the ground. He never once thought, distinctly that is to say, of the great change that had just occurred in his fortunes. "What eyes!" he said to himself: "What a wealth of expression in them! What profound pity! She looked as though she were saying: 'Life is such a tangled skein of misfortunes! Do not distress yourself too much about what is happening to you! Are we not sent here below to be unhappy?' How those fine eyes of hers remained fastened on me, even when the horses were moving forward with such a clatter under the arch!"
Fabrizio completely forgot to feel wretched.
Clelia accompanied her father to various houses; in the early part of the evening no one had yet heard the news of the arrest of the great culprit, for such was the name which the courtiers bestowed a couple of hours later on this poor, rash young man.
It was noticed that evening that there was more animation than usual in Clelia's face; whereas animation, the air of taking part in what was going on round her, was just what was chiefly lacking in that charming young person. When you compared her beauty with that of the Duchessa, it was precisely that air of not being moved by anything, that manner as though of a person superior to everything, which weighed down the balance in her rival's favour. In England, in France, lands of vanity, the general opinion would probably have been just the opposite. Clelia Conti was a young girl still a trifle too slim, who might be compared to the beautiful models of Guido Reni. We make no attempt to conceal the fact that, according to Greek ideas of beauty, the objection might have been made that her head had certain features a trifle too strongly marked; the lips, for instance, though full of the most touching charm, were a little too substantial.
The admirable peculiarity of this face in which shone the artless graces and the heavenly imprint of the most noble soul was that, albeit of the rarest and most singular beauty, it did not in any way resemble the heads of Greek sculpture. The Duchessa had, on the other hand, a little too much of the recognised beauty of the ideal type, and her truly Lombard head recalled the voluptuous smile and tender melancholy of Leonardo's lovely paintings of Herodias. Just as the Duchessa shone, sparkled with wit and irony, attaching herself passionately, if one may use the expression, to all the subjects which the course of the conversation brought before her mind's eye, so Clelia showed herself calm and slow to move, whether from contempt for her natural surroundings or from regret for some unfulfilled dream. It had long been thought that she would end by embracing the religious life. At twenty she was observed to show a repugnance towards going to balls, and if she accompanied her father to these entertainments it was only out of obedience to him and in order not to jeopardise the interests of his career.
"It is apparently going to be impossible for me," the General in his vulgarity of spirit was too prone to repeat, "heaven having given me as a daughter the most beautiful person in the States of our Sovereign, and the most virtuous, to derive any benefit from her for the advancement of my fortune! I live in too great isolation, I have only her in the world, and what I must absolutely have is a family that will support me socially, and will procure for me a certain number of houses where my merit, and especially my aptitude for ministerial office shall be laid down as unchallengeable postulates in any political discussion. And there is my daughter, so beautiful, so sensible, so religious, taking offence whenever a young man well established at court attempts to find favour in her sight. If the suitor is dismissed, her character becomes less sombre, and I see her appear almost gay, until another champion enters the lists. The handsomest man at court, Conte Baldi, presented himself and failed to please; the richest man in His Highness's States, the Marchese Crescenzi, has now followed him; she insists that he would make her miserable.
"Decidedly," the General would say at other times, "my daughter's eyes are finer than the Duchessa's, particularly as, on rare occasions, they are capable of assuming a more profound expression; but that magnificent expression, when does anyone ever see it? Never in a drawing-room where she might do justice to it; but simply out driving alone with me, when she lets herself be moved, for instance, by the miserable state of some hideous rustic. 'Keep some reflexion of that sublime gaze,' I tell her at times, 'for the drawing-rooms in which we shall be appearing this evening.' Not a bit of it: should she condescend to accompany me into society, her pure and noble features present the somewhat haughty and scarcely encouraging expression of passive obedience." The General spared himself no trouble, as we can see, in his search for a suitable son-in-law, but what he said was true.
Courtiers, who have nothing to contemplate in their own hearts, notice every little thing that goes on round about them; they had observed that it was particularly on those days when Clelia could not succeed in making herself emerge from her precious musings and feign an interest in anything that the Duchessa chose to stop beside her and tried to make her talk. Clelia had hair of an ashen fairness, which stood out with a charming effect against cheeks that were delicately tinted but, as a rule, rather too pale. The mere shape of her brow might have told an attentive observer that air, so instinct with nobility, that manner, so far superior to vulgar charms, sprang from a profound indifference to everything that was vulgar. It was the absence and not the impossibility of interest in anything. Since her father had become governor of the citadel, Clelia had found happiness, or at least freedom from vexations in her lofty abode. The appalling number of steps that had to be climbed in order to reach this official residence of the governor, situated on the platform of the main tower, kept away tedious visitors, and Clelia, for this material reason, enjoyed the liberty of the convent; she found there almost all the ideal of happiness which at one time she had thought of seeking from the religious life. She was seized by a sort of horror at the mere thought of putting her beloved solitude and her secret thoughts at the disposal of a young man whom the title of husband would authorise to disturb all this inner life. If, by her solitude, she did not attain to happiness, at least she had succeeded in avoiding sensations that were too painful.
On the evening after Fabrizio had been taken to the fortress, the Duchessa met Clelia at the party given by the Minister of the Interior, Conte Zurla; everyone gathered round them; that evening, Clelia's beauty outshone the Duchessa's. The beautiful eyes of the girl wore an expression so singular and so profound as to be almost indiscreet; there was pity, there were indignation also and anger in her gaze. The gaiety and brilliant ideas of the Duchessa seemed to plunge Clelia into spells of grief that bordered on horror. "What will be the cries and groans of this poor woman," she said to herself, "when she learns that her lover, that young man with so great a heart and so noble a countenance, has just been flung into prison? And that look in the Sovereign's eyes which condemns him to death! O Absolute Power, when wilt thou cease to crush down Italy! O base and venal souls! And I am the daughter of a gaoler! And I have done nothing to deny that noble station, for I did not deign to answer Fabrizio! And once before he was my benefactor! What can he be thinking of me at this moment, alone in his room with his little lamp for sole companion?" Revolted by this idea, Clelia cast a look of horror at the magnificent illumination of the drawing-rooms of the Minister of the Interior.
"Never," the word went round the circle of courtiers who had gathered round the two reigning beauties, and were seeking to join in their conversation, "never have they talked to one another with so animated and at the same time so intimate an air. Can the Duchessa, who is always so careful to smooth away the animosities aroused by the Prime Minister, can she have thought of some great marriage for Clelia?" This conjecture was founded upon a circumstance which until then had never presented itself to the observation of the court: the girl's eyes shewed more fire, and indeed, if one may use the term, more passion than those of the beautiful Duchessa. The latter, for her part, was astonished, and, one may say it to her credit, delighted by the discovery of charms so novel in the young recluse; for an hour she had been gazing at her with a pleasure by no means commonly felt in the sight of a rival. "Why, what can have happened?" the Duchessa asked herself; "never has Clelia looked so beautiful, or, one might say, so touching: can her heart have spoken? . . . But in that case, certainly, it is an unhappy love, there is a dark grief at the root of this strange animation. . . . But unhappy love keeps silent. Can it be a question of recalling a faithless lover by shining in society?" And the Duchessa gazed with attention at all the young men who stood round them. Nowhere could she see any unusual expression, every face shone with a more or less pleased fatuity. "But a miracle must have happened," the Duchessa told herself, vexed by her inability to solve the mystery. "Where is Conte Mosca, that man of discernment? No, I am not mistaken, Clelia is looking at me attentively, and as if I was for her the object of a quite novel interest. Is it the effect of some order received from her father, that vile courtier? I supposed that young and noble mind to be incapable of lowering itself to any pecuniary consideration. Can General Fabio Conti have some decisive request to make of the Conte?"
About ten o'clock, a friend of the Duchessa came up to her and murmured a few words; she turned extremely pale: Clelia took her hand and ventured to press it.
"I thank you, and I understand you now . . . you have a noble heart," said the Duchessa, making an effort to control herself; she had barely the strength to utter these few words. She smiled profusely at the lady of the house, who rose to escort her to the door of the outermost drawing-room: such honours were due only to Princesses of the Blood, and were for the Duchessa an ironical comment on her position at the moment. And so she continued to smile at Contessa Zurla, but in spite of untold efforts did not succeed in uttering a single word.
Clelia's eyes filled with tears as she watched the Duchessa pass through these rooms, thronged at the moment with all the most brilliant figures in society. "What is going to happen to that poor woman," she wondered, "when she finds herself alone in her carriage? It would be an indiscretion on my part to offer to accompany her, I dare not. . . . And yet, what a consolation it would be to the poor prisoner, sitting in some wretched cell, if he knew that he was loved to such a point! What a frightful solitude that must be in which they have plunged him! And we, we are here in these brilliant rooms, how horrible! Can there be any way of conveying a message to him? Great God! That would be treachery to my father; his position is so delicate between the two parties! What will become of him if he exposes himself to the passionate hatred of the Duchessa, who controls the will of the Prime Minister, who in three out of every four things here is the master? On the other hand, the Prince takes an unceasing interest in everything that goes on at the fortress, and will not listen to any jest on that subject; fear makes him cruel. . . . In any case, Fabrizio" (Clelia no longer thought of him as Signor del Dongo) "is greatly to be pitied. . . . It is a very different thing for him from the risk of losing a lucrative post! . . . And the Duchessa! . . . What a terrible passion love is! . . . And yet all those liars in society speak of it as a source of happiness! One is sorry for elderly women because they can no longer feel or inspire love. . . . Never shall I forget what I have just seen; what a sudden change! How those beautiful, radiant eyes of the Duchessa turned dull and dead after the fatal word which Marchese N—— came up and said to her! . . . Fabrizio must indeed be worthy of love!"